Thumbnail description


A ’thumbnail’ is a brief description (short like a thumb nail).

This method uses existing information to document the current understanding of the situation your project/program/policy has been developed to address (both the problems or needs and the strengths) and to document the intended (or actual) activities, outcomes, and impacts, and what resources will be needed (or have been allocated). 

A thumbnail description may include information on:

  • The rationale: the issue being addressed, what intervention is being done, who is intended to benefit from it, and what the intended results are
  • The scale of the intervention, budget and resources allocated and stage of implementation
  • The roles of partner organizations and other stakeholders involved in implementation
  • The implications of contextual factors – geographic, social, political, economic and institutional circumstances which create opportunities or challenges
  • Significant changes in the intervention that have occurred over time – because of changes in contextual factors or lessons learned

Advice for choosing this method

This method is used to define what is to be evaluated.

All evaluations should include a thumbnail description of some sort.

Advice for using this method

This method can be used either at the planning stage of an initiative, during implementation or after implementation.

It can be done by a solo evaluator or in a group.

It can be done as a low resource method using existing documents or using more time and expertise to develop a more detailed definition of what is being evaluated.

If an initiative is complex, has changed over time and/or is likely to be understood differently by different stakeholders consider investing more time and resources to ensure that different perspectives are considered when developing the definition.

Different versions of the initial description may suit different stakeholders and different communication purposes, think about whether it would be useful to have succinct and more detailed versions of the initial description.


This page is a Stub (a minimal version of a page). You can help expand it. Contact Us to recommend resources or volunteer to expand the description.

'Thumbnail description' is referenced in: